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New Yorkers Run for President: History and Insights for 2016


Franklin D. Roosevelt (

The 2016 presidential contest may very well pit two New Yorkers, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, against each other. In the 29 presidential elections from 1900 to 2012, New Yorkers headed major tickets nine times. Two (Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey) ran twice; one (Franklin D. Roosevelt), 4 times. New Yorkers faced each other twice (1904 and 1944), presaging the seemingly likely 2016 matchup.

New York's prominence in national politics is no surprise. Arguably the nation's most historically important state for many years, New York is something of a proving ground for the presidency. Succeeding as New York governor, for instance, demonstrates capacity to lead, address complex issues, manage politics successfully, and get things done. Simply serving as governor or U.S. senator from New York is almost always a guarantee of a high-profile. New York for many years had more electoral votes than any other state and even now has a sizeable number.

New York's significant role in presidential elections has a long and illustrative history.

1904: The judicious judge vs. the energetic president
Theodore Roosevelt (R), New York governor 1899-1901 and then vice president, became president in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley. Over the next three years, TR compiled a vigorous record, promoting conservation, taking legal action under the anti-trust law to dissolve a powerful railroad consortium called the Northern Securities Company, and supporting a revolution in Panama to achieve independence from Columbia and then negotiating an agreement to build a canal there to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He was easily nominated by his party to seek a full term as president.

Alton P. Parker (D), chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals since 1898, was a proven Democratic vote getter in what was then a predominantly Republican state. His solid, well-reasoned opinions gave him an aura of authority and reliability, an advantage, his backers insisted, over the sometimes impetuous TR. Parker in January 1904 wrote the majority opinion in the case of People v. Lochner, validating a New York law regulating the working and safety conditions of bakery employees. It was an eloquent affirmation of the government's authority to regulate industry, and it helped him secure the Democratic party's presidential nomination in the summer.

Parker resigned as chief judge and, following the custom of the day, did not travel or make speeches beyond a few from the front porch of his estate, Rosemont, in Esopus, on the Hudson River near Kingston. He campaigned on frugality and economy in government, cautioned against foreign adventuring, and accused TR of secretly soliciting campaign contributions from railroad and banking magnates. TR denied the accusation and pointed to his energetic, proactive record as President. Parker generated little enthusiasm. A cartoon in the fall showed him in a rowboat near his dock at Rosemont, leisurely fishing and lamenting, "If I could only hook a real issue!" Americans in the early 20th century were ready for strong presidential leadership. TR won easily, garnering nearly 60% of the popular vote.

1912: the resurgent New Yorker
TR served as president until 1908 and was succeeded by his friend and Secretary of War, William H. Taft. TR had so much confidence in Taft that he easily convinced Republican leaders that Taft was his logical heir apparent. Roosevelt went off on a hunting trip to Africa and when he returned in June 1910, he quickly expressed displeasure at the way his successor had handled things. Taft, amiable and accommodating, had signed a tariff bill that increased rates on imported goods, weakened TR's conservation policies, and given in to Republican conservatives in Congress on other issues.

TR began attacking Taft and articulating a new political philosophy which he called "the New Nationalism." Roosevelt condemned court decisions that nullified state regulatory statutes and declared that "property shall be the servant, not the master, of the commonwealth...The...essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has been, and must always be, to take from one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows." Roosevelt sought the 1912 Republican nomination and won most of the primaries in the handful of states that had them that year. But Taft supporters denounced TR as a dangerous power-hungry radical who if elected might wield unprecedented executive power. They vowed to stop him at all costs. Taft forces controlled many state delegations and the president was renominated.

TR and his supporters cried foul, left the Republican convention, and then formed a new party, the Progressive Party, dubbed the "Bull Moose" party after TR declared he felt as "fit as a bull moose." The Progressive platform included workmen's compensation, old-age insurance, woman suffrage, and federal regulation of business, built around the slogan "Let the People Rule!" TR campaigned energetically, narrowly escaping assassination when a deranged man fired at him in Chicago. The Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson, who had served as a progressive New Jersey governor and before that was president of Princeton University. Wilson campaigned on a platform of "the New Freedom," including strong federal regulation of business. Taft waged a weak, dispirited campaign. With the Republicans effectively split between Roosevelt and Taft, Wilson triumphed easily, Roosevelt came in second, and the hapless Taft carried only two states, Utah and Vermont.

1916: the progressive New York governor and judge
Woodrow Wilson pushed several progressive reforms through Congress, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve Act, a strong anti-trust law,, and a lower tariff. But after World War I began in 1914, public attention shifted to the balance between defending American trading rights on the high seas and at the same time avoiding being drawn into the war. Easily re-nominated in 1916, Wilson espoused military preparedness but also pledged to keep the nation at peace, campaigning on the slogan "he kept us out of war."

Republicans, reunited after their 1912 split, nominated former New York Governor and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. TR and Taft both endorsed him. Hughes had been a strong, progressive governor and a moderate, capable judge who favored government regulation. But he was an uninspiring campaigner, his speeches limp, too often laden with platitudes. Hughes so straddled the issue of peace and war that the Democrats dubbed him Charles "Evasive" Hughes.

The result was close in a number of critical states. The election hinged on California. That state's Republican governor, Hiram Johnson, who had been TR's 1912 vice presidential running mate, was lukewarm on Hughes. One day during the campaign, Hughes and Johnson were in the same hotel in Long Beach for several hours, but, due to a scheduling snafu, did not meet with each other. Hughes later apologized but Johnson thought Hughes had snubbed him and gave him only nominal support. Wilson narrowly carried California and the election. (The next year, 1917, Germany began attacking American ships with its submarines, leading Wilson to ask Congress for a declaration of war. Hughes later went on to be Secretary of State and Chief Justice of the United States.)

1928: New York's "Happy Warrior"
America was prosperous and at peace in 1928, which many people attributed to the benign, pro-business policies of Republican Presidents Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) and Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929). When Coolidge announced he would not run in 1928, Republicans selected his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, as their candidate. Hoover, an engineer, had won acclaim for leading relief work in Europe after World War I and promotion of business and prosperity as commerce secretary. He campaigned as heir apparent of the two previous Republican presidents and promised to continue America's sunny prosperity.

People were satisfied, even complacent. It seems unlikely any Democrat could have defeated Hoover in 1928. Democrats selected a strong contender, Alfred E. Smith, governor of New York 1919-1921 and 1923-1928. Smith, the "Happy Warrior," was one of New York's most effective governors, consolidating state government, enacting the modern state budget system, increasing aid to education, and taking other initiatives. But Smith was also a "wet" -- he opposed prohibition, the outlawing of alcoholic beverages, which had been in effect since 1919. He was also a Catholic at a time when anti-Catholic bigotry was strong. Opponents whispered that Smith would be under the control of the Vatican and might even bring the Pope himself to Washington to take charge of the government.

Smith espoused a vision of a federal government which would address the issues facing the nation "along sane, sensible progressive lines." His informal campaign song, "The Sidewalks of New York," reminded audiences everywhere he spoke of his New York roots. That helped in some places but hurt the candidate in other areas which associated New York City with concentrated wealth, urban problems, and overly-liberal values, and associated Smith himself with the New York Tammany Hall Democratic organization. Smith did well in urban areas but he carried only seven states, all but one in the south, which had been strongly Democratic since the time of the Civil War.

READ ON  - this is page 1 of 3 - New York Governor FDR runs for President and much more - Continue to page 2 of 3

Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.

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The Next Step to Helping Immigrant Families Thrive

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Council Member Menchaca, a co-author, promotes IDNYC (photo: @IDNYC)

In recent years, New York City has taken tremendous strides forward in supporting immigrants. Many of Mayor de Blasio's signature initiatives—particularly universal pre-kindergarten (UPK), IDNYC, and community schools—have offered vital new services to New Yorkers across the city that have been tremendously beneficial for immigrants seeking to fully integrate themselves into our society and see their families thrive.

Now, there's another critical step that New York City can take to build on these immigrant integration successes: investing in adult education.

New York City has the largest immigrant community of any city in the United States, with three million immigrants from all over the world—that's more than the entire population of Chicago. Immigrants help drive our city—accounting for 45 percent of the workforce and 49 percent of small business owners, and endowing the Big Apple with much of its incredible cultural vibrancy.

New York City has led the way in offering vital services to immigrant communities, in particular to children from immigrant households. But it's critical that we now move forward to ensure that immigrant parents are equally equipped to take advantage of new path-breaking city programs, and that means supporting adult literacy initiatives that help immigrant New Yorkers learn English and ensure basic reading and writing skills.

Adult literacy is crucial for helping parents know how to navigate the city and unlock the power of major policy achievements. To make UPK, IDNYC, and community schools live up to their potential, for example, we need to make sure parents are equipped with the tools they need to access them. English-speaking parents have a much easier time ensuring their children's educational success—for example, by being able to fully engage during parent-teacher meetings—and being able to proactively seek out the indispensable services provided at community schools.

Adult literacy is necessary for our immigrant communities, and more broadly, it's important for the economic well-being of our city. As a new report by the Center for Popular Democracy and Make the Road New York has found, directing additional resources toward adult literacy will raise immigrant New Yorkers' wages and increase tax revenues.

Take the example of Yanilda, a Dominican immigrant enrolled in English classes at Make the Road New York in Bushwick. Since beginning her classes, Yanilda notes, "I can help my niece with her homework. She's in kindergarten now and when I help her read her books, I learn too." Yanilda is also confident that her steadily improving English will help her get a better job. For her and thousands of others citywide who are lucky enough to have a spot in a free English class, adult literacy programs offer a win-win.

There are 1.7 million and 2.3 million Limited-English proficient residents like Yanilda, in New York City and New York State, respectively, according to the Census, and many others in need of basic literacy courses. Within immigrant communities there is a tremendous unmet need for English classes and adult basic education, with state funding now only sufficient to accommodate one of every 39 New Yorkers who need ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) classes. Simply put, adult literacy funding has not kept pace with the need.

That's why we need New York City to dedicate $16 million in its upcoming budget to new investments to help 13,300 students access adult literacy programs, including ESOL, Basic Education in Native Language (BENL), Adult Basic Education (ABE), and High School Equivalency Preparation (HSE).

We've made so much progress in expanding services to immigrant New Yorkers since Mayor de Blasio took office. It's time for New York City to take the next step in full immigrant integration by investing in adult literacy.

Carlos Menchaca is a member of the New York City Council. Theo Oshiro is the Deputy Director Make the Road New York. On Twitter: @cmenchaca & @maketheroadny.

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New York's Coming ConCon Battle


(photo via The Governor's Office on flickr)

New York's Constitution mandates that every 20 years New Yorkers be granted the opportunity to vote on whether to call a state constitutional convention. This referendum is next on the ballot on Nov. 7, 2017.

The unique democratic function of this referendum is to provide New Yorkers with a mechanism to bypass the Legislature's gatekeeping power over constitutional reform, which is a problem when the Legislature has an institutional conflict of interest with the people. Such a conflict occurs when the Legislature controls the constitutional powers of competing branches of government (e.g., the judicial and executive branches of government) and its own internal powers (e.g., legislative ethics, term limits, campaign finance, ballot access, and redistricting).

Since 1776, what is now the United States has had 236 state constitutional conventions and New York nine.

Fourteen states, including New York, have the periodic convention referendum. The last one to pass in the U.S. was in 1984.

My research finds two stages to the recent pro and con lobbying campaigns over convention referendums. The first stage is dominated by "yes" advocates; the second, which only occurs if the referendum polls well, is dominated by "no" advocates.

So far, New York is following this pattern, as it did in 1997, the last time the referendum was on the ballot. Since January 2015, 16 newspaper op-eds have called for a convention, while none has opposed. Governor Cuomo has announced support for a convention, including setting up a $1 million preparatory commission, while no prominent state politician has announced opposition.

Partially due to such one-sided public arguments, calling a convention is way ahead in the polls, leading 69% to 15% according to a Sienna Research Institute poll. Despite this lead, most political experts believe that the convention referendum will lose because waiting in the wings for a last minute PR blitz is a well-organized and deeply-financed opposition, which includes the special interest groups that excel at influencing the Legislature and fear the convention as a populist institution.

Opponents' campaign arguments directed to the general public will include: A convention will be outrageously costly, thoroughly corrupted by both the Legislature and special interests, wastefully redundant with the Legislature, likely to result in either too little or too much change, and controlled by majorities who will violate minority rights and minorities who will violate majority rights.

These arguments need to be subject to well-informed scrutiny. This can only be accomplished if media, think tank, and other public opinion leaders bring the opposition out of the shadows. Two-sided public debates, including dueling op-eds and interview programs, should begin now.

In a democracy, one reason public campaigns for vital elected offices, such as U.S. President, start many months before election time is that time is needed to have a well-informed debate. Open, sustained conflict also breeds popular interest. If opponents aren't willing to engage publicly, the public and press will remain uninformed, which allows last minute, sound-bite sized fearmongering to thrive.

Starting a two-sided public debate early also helps compensate for New York's loophole-ridden campaign finance referendum disclosure laws, which aren't a match for modern, anti-convention referendum politics, including the complex influence-laundering schemes that accompany them. For example, New York doesn't require disclosures during the last 19 days before a referendum—just when the attack ads become most intense.

No more fundamental right exists in a democratic system of government than the people's right to reform their government despite legislative opposition. New York's upcoming debate over how best to implement that right should be treated as seriously as the U.S. presidential election. The framers of New York's 1846 Constitution who bequeathed this right to us in the form of the periodic state constitutional convention referendum would have wanted no less.

Instead of a one-sided pro convention "debate" followed by a one-sided last-minute anti-convention "debate," we need a sustained multi-sided debate commensurate with its importance.

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School Diversity Benefits All Children - and Parents

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Mayor de Blasio on a school visit (photo: Rob Bennett, Mayor's Office)

My four-year-old daughter has a good friend at preschool who happens to have the same name. I'll call them both "Maya." My daughter is Asian, and her friend is Latino. Recently, a classmate said, "There are two Mayas in our class. One is white and the other is brown." My Asian daughter is the "white" Maya. The classmate's mom probed why he categorized the two Mayas this way, but didn't get much of an answer. Innocently, the boy didn't realize why his categorization was inaccurate or unusual.

In preschool, children are just beginning to make sense of things, applying lessons and parallels - sometimes accurately and sometimes not - from the world around them.

My daughter attends University Settlement Park Slope North/Helen Owen Carey Child Development Center ("Helen Owen Carey"), which manages to maintain a rare balance of racial and income diversity. I really appreciate this aspect of our preschool. Exposure to classmates from a wide range of racial and economic backgrounds is important. Young children need precisely this type of exposure, even if the process by which they come to understand it can be messy. Incidents like the above are awkward, but it's good that my daughter and her classmates are at a school where children can start to take stock of our diverse community. I am glad that Maya's classroom more closely mirrors the population of Brooklyn as a whole, and not just that of our Park Slope neighborhood.

Maya and her classmates have unique learning opportunities as a result of their school's student body, both formally and informally. In a lesson themed "All About Me," Maya and her classmates examined their physical appearance including differences in skin tone which they later put on a color spectrum, indirectly allowing the children to consider race.

Parents and families can also play an important role in this learning. Each spring, my husband and I go into our children's preschool classrooms to teach mini-lessons about two holidays related to our ethnic heritage, Chinese New Year and Burmese New Year. Even casual exposure can expand young children's sense of the world. My three children have sampled Haitian food at preschool potlucks, learned about latkes and matzo, and shared homemade mochi at their own birthday parties.

We need more public school classrooms that look like my daughter's preschool class.

The New York City Department of Education's recent decision to allow principals at seven public schools to set aside a percentage of seats for particular categories of students (such as low-income students, English Language Learners, or those involved with the child welfare system) in the interest of school integration is a promising and needed measure.

Once a more diverse study body walks through the classroom doors, however, a new and more intensive challenge begins – that of educating students of widely varying backgrounds and building a community from these children and their parents. And while it may be simpler to work with kids with roughly the same background and starting point, we know the value of a more diverse learning environment for everyone involved.

Parents in a racially and economically diverse school do face unique challenges when negotiating relationships and building community at those schools. For the most part, parents – including myself - at our preschool socialize more with others like themselves – racially, economically, or otherwise. This unfortunate segregation occurs politely and all too naturally, despite good intentions, and persists although many Park Slope parents chose the school precisely because of its diversity.

However, I have observed how we all grow more comfortable with one another over time and shared experiences. We nod "hello" when we run into each at drop-off or pickup, racing to avoid the dreaded late drop-off or pickup that occasions a visit to the administrative office. Parents share tips about the kindergarten application process, often in groups wider than our social circles. And so on.

Community building is tough, especially within diverse communities, even when this very diversity is what drew you into that community in the first place. I am thankful for the chance to participate in Helen Owen Carey's community. Maya's older brother now attends PS 321, a popular and sought after public elementary school in Park Slope. I've been satisfied with the caliber of instruction he's received there and appreciate the school's deeply engaged parent community. Unfortunately, it lacks the diversity I so love about our preschool. My children have been exposed to a level of diversity before entering kindergarten that they may not experience again in New York City public schools – maybe in their educational careers. That alone is priceless.

I benefit from the fact that my son's elementary school is a one mere block from my apartment, and the fact that playdates with my son's classmates are easy to arrange because everyone lives within five minutes. I have enjoyed getting to know many of his friend's parents, with whom I have a lot in common. That said, there is value in exposure to – and perhaps even building a more tenuous relationship with – parents with whom one does not have a lot in common and most likely will never become close friends with. Learning about other parents' experiences and the challenges they may face has expanded both my sense of the privilege I enjoy, as well as my broader understanding of educational equity.

As for my three children, as much as I appreciate the fact that we are zoned for PS 321 and what that means for their educational foundation, I hope they will not only reap benefits from their time in preschool but have more opportunities for rich, demanding, and diverse educational experiences in public school and beyond.

A good preschool friend of my son lived far away in another part of Brooklyn and is from a working class background. I didn't get to know his parents beyond the usual salutations and pleasantries, and we have not kept in touch. But I hope my son will remember his old friend should he meet other kids who remind him of the friend and that this will help my son keep an open mind and heart to others from different racial and income backgrounds. This hope might be impossibly idealistic, but it is ultimately what we need to achieve from school integration.

Khin Mai Aung has three children aged two, four, and six who attend preschool and public school in New York City. Previously, she was Director of the Educational Equity Program at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and she currently conducts civil rights enforcement for the state of New York. The views contained in this article are solely her own.

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State Senate GOP Plays Politics with Anti-Semitism at CUNY

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CUNY School of Law

New York State Senate Republicans are using the existence of anti-Semitism on CUNY campuses as their latest excuse in a ruse to gut the city university system's budget by $485 million, and shifting the financial burden of the cuts to CUNY students and their families.

Last week, Senate Republicans including Senator Kenneth LaValle, who chairs the Senate Committee on Higher Education, vowed to slash CUNY funding in order to "send a message" about anti-Semitism and intolerance on CUNY campuses. This message that Republican senators are sending is clear: Senate Republicans are using Jewish students on CUNY campuses as pawns in a budget battle that belittles incidents of anti-Semitism and excuses draconian budget cuts that would jeopardize the financial health of my classmates.

Intolerance and discrimination are real, and are endemic in our society. Our elected leaders should make a conscious effort to make all public institutions, including CUNY, as free from discrimination and intolerance as possible. As a Jewish CUNY student, I have witnessed my fair share of anti-Semitism (and other discrimination) within the CUNY system. Cutting funding is the last thing to do in response, though.

I cringe when I hear my fellow students decry the "Zionist administration" at CUNY or when thinly-veiled prejudicial comments are used freely on my campus and others against various groups. I welcome, encourage, and applaud efforts on a city and state level to address bigotry and prejudice on CUNY campuses. But the Republican effort to tie funding dollars to incidents of anti-Semitism will only further alienate students who feel victimized by intolerance.

Making matters worse, this politically motivated move endangers the prospects of 500,000 CUNY students and countless future students in our city who will consider enrolling at a CUNY school because of the affordability and quality of education that the system offers.

As the threat of unprecedented budget cuts lingers, CUNY students are growing anxious that we will not have the opportunity to continue our tradition of service. Over the past few weeks, my classmates and I have protested the potential cuts - we are fearful that our tuition will increase exponentially while our opportunities decrease. Lawmakers in Albany cannot allow these cuts to go through, resulting in the loss of precious programs and the dismissal of invaluable faculty members.

While the governor's office says that CUNY is fully funded in the executive budget, we want to make sure that the budget deal reached before the end of this month does indeed leave CUNY heading in the right direction, not backward. We certainly cannot allow Senate Republicans to push for cuts under the guise of punishing disturbing episodes of anti-Semitism. We must fight these episodes with more education, not less.

The State's historic commitment to funding the CUNY system has ensured that our quality education remains affordable, and that students of all backgrounds and financial circumstances have access to this education. An affordable CUNY system is a system that leads to students giving back to our city and state.

For example, the CUNY School of Law student body is largely focused on public-interest law. From defending indigent clients in criminal court to advocating for legislation that makes public benefits accessible to all New Yorkers, CUNY Law students are investing back into the people of our city and state.

Now, more than ever, we need our state government, including and especially the Senate GOP, to have our backs. Addressing anti-Semitism and discrimination on CUNY campuses is a legitimate concern that should be confronted. But conflating incidents of anti-Semitism and prejudice with the need to fully fund CUNY schools is a disservice to the people of this city and state.

The path forward is clear: fully fund CUNY and also make every effort necessary to tackle discrimination on CUNY campuses.

Jeremy Rosenberg is a student at CUNY Law School and president of the CUNY School of Law Democrats. He is on Twitter @JeremyR1992.

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Letter to the Editor: Getting the Facts Right on the Governor's Budget

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Director of State Operations Jim Malatras, the author (photo: Governor's Office)

To the Editor:

Re: "Proposed CUNY Cuts Threaten the University's Timeless Mission" that ran on March 16.

It's important we separate fact from fiction for your readers. As we always have, the Governor's budget fully funds CUNY at a total of $1.6 billion. Any statement to the contrary is simply false or a direct attempt to play politics and mislead the public.

Governor Cuomo recognizes the importance of public higher education which is why we continue to make significant investments in CUNY. We want to ensure academic success and equality of opportunity for not just some, but all students. Yet the out of control administrative costs at CUNY continue to threaten this very mission. Consider this: The cost of administrative expenses today at CUNY is $4,634 per student or two times the average cost of what others pay in states like California, Massachusetts and Florida. These ballooning administrative costs come at the expense of students and faculty – and that is plain wrong.

CUNY must find ways to share services, reduce overhead costs and streamline back office functions. To guide this process, the state will appoint a management organization expert to restructure administrative office functions. This expert will be tasked with conducting a comprehensive review of CUNY and presenting a plan ahead of next year's budget.

Through improved fiscal management and smart restructuring, CUNY will be able to find cost savings, look for shared services with SUNY, and ultimately direct more money to the students, classrooms and faculty who need it most. This is a plan we can all get behind.

Jim Malatras
Director of State Operations for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

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CUNY Faculty’s Lost Decade & The Risk Ahead

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PSC CUNY rally in Albany (photo: Emma Powell

The faculty at the City University of New York has lost a decade. Salaries at CUNY have been frozen since the October 2010 expiration of our contract and even before that they failed to keep pace with inflation. In 2015, assistant and associate professors at the top salary step earned 92% in real terms of what they earned in 2006. Full professors at the top step did slightly better, taking home just under 96% of their 2006 salaries.

Since the contract expired, living costs in New York have risen 7.6%. Food is up 10.9%, rent 15.8%, and medical care 18.2%. Tenured full professors like me feel this on a daily basis as we struggle to balance our families’ budgets. But we’re the lucky ones.

Adjunct faculty do much of the heavy lifting at CUNY, teaching more than half of all classes, and for salaries that can be less than $3,000 per course, with little job security. In return for this paltry wage, they run classes, grade papers, and hold office hours for students. The adjuncts are the sorriest victims of the salary freeze, with many commuting frantically from one campus to another — from the Bronx to Staten Island — in an exhausting struggle to survive and to preserve a toehold in the academy and a professional identity. No wonder CUNY campuses are plastered with posters decrying “adjunct poverty.”

cuny inflation

Students too suffer from budget cuts. Fewer courses are offered in their majors, lengthening time-to-degree. Adjuncts may not have a base at any campus and are often unavailable to meet with students or to write recommendations needed for graduate school applications. Regular faculty have to perform tasks that elsewhere are assigned to support staff, such as shopping for food for student receptions or entering course registrations in the unwieldy CUNYFirst computer. This means they have less time to advise students or to write grants that bring CUNY much-needed overhead.

CUNY has been the great equalizer, fueling upward mobility for generations of New Yorkers. Today its 24 campuses enroll 275,000 degree students and another 247,000 continuing students — some 6% of the city’s population. CUNY rightfully boasts that 40% of undergraduates were born abroad, 44% are first-generation Americans, and 42% are the first generation college students. More than half come from households earning less than $30,000 a year. Eight out of ten Latino and African-American undergraduates in the city go to CUNY schools.

CUNY remains a pillar of New York’s economy. It grants more than one-third of business degrees awarded by New York City institutions and trains one-third of the city’s teachers and many of the nurses and technicians in local hospitals. In a city where luxury condos and billionaire towers sprout like mushrooms, CUNY’s $2.7 billion capital program accounts for 20% of total construction, generating 14,000 jobs. Students at 300 high schools take courses through CUNY’s College Now program.

Why does a university that makes such an immense contribution to the city freeze its faculty pay? After five years of negotiations, management made its first salary proposal, offering three years of retroactive zero percent increases, subsequent hikes totaling 6%, and an expiration date of October 2016, a mere eight months from now. The union rejected this below-inflation “raise.”

CUNY Chancellor James Milliken and several CUNY college presidents have made tepid declarations in favor of resolving the standoff. The real obstacle is in Albany, where Governor Andrew Cuomo’s unremitting hostility to teachers’ unions extends to CUNY faculty and workers.

In 2011, Cuomo launched SUNY 2020, a program of challenge grants for capital projects and policies he argued would lead to instructional innovation and hiring at all the state’s public universities, including CUNY. The plan required that students pay $300 more each year for five years and pledged that the state wouldn’t reduce support for CUNY. Legislators voted for the hikes believing they would generate revenue to improve academic and student-support services at CUNY. Since 2012, however, the state — the source of most of CUNY’s budget — has failed to cover cost increases for rent, utilities, equipment, fringe benefits and contractual salary steps.

State revenues rose 5.6% in 2015, but in December Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have required the state to fund such increases. In January, he signed an executive action raising the minimum wage for SUNY workers to $15 an hour, but excluded state workers at CUNY. Also in January, the governor tried to shift $485 million of CUNY’s budget from the state to the city. Currently, the city funds about 30% of CUNY community colleges and the state funds CUNY senior colleges, an arrangement in place since the mid-1970s.

To Cuomo’s credit, his 2017 proposed budget includes $240 million for agreements with CUNY unions. But the $240 million is contingent on the $485 million cut in state funding. Even if the money for retroactive pay survives in the Legislature, the amount is insufficient to restore adequate salaries for faculty and other CUNY workers.

CUNY is used to crisis and austerity, with a $51 million shortfall last year and across-the-board cuts now of 3% at senior colleges. Per pupil funding is 17.4% below 2008 in inflation-adjusted terms. Top administrators’ salaries continue to climb, so the budget is balanced on the backs of faculty, workers, and students, who pay rising tuition for an education that is ever harder to deliver.

This is penny-wise and pound-foolish. CUNY’s 6,700 full-time faculty members include world-renowned experts in every field. Each year they win millions of dollars in grants, author thousands of scientific papers, and mentor new generations of informed citizens. Many depart for better jobs elsewhere. Those who remain work more years at top salary steps than they otherwise would simply to accumulate enough retirement savings. It is increasingly difficult to recruit scholars to the lowest-paid faculty in one of the country’s highest cost-of-living regions, and it is usually impossible to replace professors who leave or retire.

The neglect of CUNY exacerbates inequality, deprives hundreds of thousands of students the education they deserve, and lessens New York’s competitiveness in the global economy. New Yorkers need to decide if they want to invest in the future of their city and, if so, make sure that our elected leaders know.

Marc Edelman is professor of anthropology at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center.

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Proposed CUNY Cuts Threaten the University's Timeless Mission

cuny grad center

At the CUNY Grad Center (photo via @GC_CUNY)

Roused from the self-imposed seclusion of doctoral dissertation data entry, I was awakened by attention to the recently-proposed drastic budget reduction to our nation's largest urban university system – the City University of New York (CUNY). These are cuts that simply cannot be allowed to go through and this is an issue that affects all of New York, not just the faculty, students, and staff of CUNY.

Public funding for higher education in New York City is the lifeline for many, offering a college education that is accessible, affordable, and high quality. The pending state budget, proposed by Governor Cuomo, includes a $485 million cut from the CUNY operating budget. Such a cut is a direct threat to CUNY, where so many who would not otherwise have access public higher education can actually afford to attend.

We must ensure that CUNY stays affordable.

CUNY's mission since 1847 has been "to provide education to the children of the whole people of New York City." Given financial facts and persistent economic inequality, not everyone can afford one of the highly-ranked private institutions located throughout our city. CUNY provides a high-quality education for a fraction of the cost.

I've been a nurse for 27 years and have two bachelor's and two master's degrees, all from private institutions. A doctoral degree was the next logical step. I chose to come to the Nursing Science Program at The CUNY Graduate Center to pursue my PhD after exploring my options in the tristate area. The Graduate Center is the hub for PhD and Masters programs at CUNY. The very reasonable price of tuition was attractive, but after looking at the options available in the city, what appealed to me most was the expertise and experience of the nursing faculty in the program.

While my story is not indicative of the large majority of CUNY students, it is not unique for the reasons that I chose CUNY and the positives of my experience there.
Composed of scholars and researchers from the three senior CUNY colleges with nursing programs (Hunter, Lehman, and the College of Staten Island), I was enticed, then offered the opportunity to matriculate and to be able to learn, develop, and grow with them. Now in my fourth and hopefully final year with my dissertation nearly done, I regularly reflect on the quality of the program. Never more so than when I see that CUNY funding is in jeopardy.

I have gained so much, not just in perspective, but in the opportunities to have independent thought and pursue deeper expertise. This ability to explore and develop independent scholarly thought is so important, and a unique attribute of the CUNY experience - one different from other local doctoral nursing programs.
The past four years have been a wonderful experience here at the Graduate Center in the PhD in Nursing Science Program, a personal evolution into the world of nursing scholarship, research, and academia.

Cutting funding to the CUNY system and the Graduate Center would be a tragedy of epic proportions for the educational possibilities of future nurses and those who would become nursing faculty so desperately needed, especially in the 12 CUNY nursing programs in our five boroughs.

We can't allow Governor Cuomo and state legislators to eviscerate quality, affordable educational programs throughout CUNY, especially at the Graduate Center I call home. All New Yorkers must let them know that New York City needs the CUNY higher education programs; a $485 million cut in the budget is a direct threat to affordable and accessible higher education for the "children of the whole people."

Nurse Practitioner & Clinical Nurse Specialist
Doctoral Candidate – PhD in Nursing Science Program, CUNY Graduate Center

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The Right Model to Follow for Diversity at Specialized High Schools

debaters nyc schools

Student debaters (photo: @NYCschools)



Last week, 5,000 eighth graders got the exciting news that they were offered admission to one of the city's eight test-in Specialized High Schools, which offer a quality public school education unmatched in the country. But while the vast majority come from poor, working class and immigrant families, as has always been the case, once again far too few come from the black and Latino communities.

Black and Latino students comprise a large majority in the city's public school system and should be better represented among those offered admission to its top high schools. Unfortunately, this year about 500 fewer black and Latino students sat for the test compared to last year, and the percentage of these students offered admission declined as well.

The school system, like the city it serves, is heavily segregated, but this lack of racial and ethnic diversity in our test-in schools is unacceptable for many reasons. Still, doing away with the test as the sole criteria for deciding admission and switching to inherently subjective multiple criteria would do little to ameliorate the imbalance and could make it worse according to last year's study by NYU's Institute for Education and Social Policy.

The city must instead invest the resources – both financial and intellectual – and take proactive steps on both a long-term and an immediate basis in order to diversify admissions to our best schools.

A program of enriched educational opportunity must be instituted in every neighborhood to permit all children to have a fair chance of success on the test and in life. Gifted and Talented Programs must exist in every district. Enriched education, especially in math and English language courses, must be available in every middle school in the city. When 53 percent of the students at test-in schools come from only 15 percent of middle schools, the fundamental answer to the problem of underrepresentation is clear.

Immediate actions must be taken to increase the numbers of students from underrepresented communities sitting for the test. And, increased attention must be paid to better preparing underrepresented students to do well enough on the test to gain admission. There is no fixed passing grade on the test. "Passing" is simply a function of scoring high enough to rank among the 5,000 highest scoring students to qualify for admission to one of the schools.

The Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, which I head, with the support of National Grid, has worked with Brooklyn Tech to run an innovative pilot STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Pipeline program for the past three years that reaches out to underrepresented middle schools, identifies children of promise and provides them with accelerated coursework and test prep. The program starts with rising seventh graders and offers them an intensive two year experience with classes during the summers and on Saturdays during the school year.

We have had good success during the first two years that students in the program have sat for the test. This year, students received offers from Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, and Brooklyn Latin, all specialized schools. Half of last year's students in the program – and nearly two-thirds this year – offered admission to Tech are black or Latino.

We are encouraged by the support for diversity at specialized high schools shown by Albany legislators in both chambers who are proposing dedicating funds to create similar pipeline programs in every test-in school. This would cost less than $1.3 million a year, or $2.5 million over two years, and enable all eight specialized high schools to run outreach and test preparation programs in underrepresented middle schools throughout the city.

While Mayor de Blasio is committed to combatting educational and economic inequality, it is still the case that a child's chances of educational success are closely correlated to where he or she grows up. Because test-in schools should serve students from every neighborhood, there is a special obligation to give all promising students tools to succeed.

The answer is not to do away with an admissions test, but to make that promise of social equality real by committing resources and intellectual firepower so that every academically promising child, regardless of their neighborhood, has a fair chance of succeeding on the test, and beyond.

Larry Cary is president of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation.

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A Good Investment: Supporting New York's Immigrant Communities

steve choi

Steven Choi, the author (photo via NYC DOE)

New York prides itself on being a gateway of opportunity, a place where people from across the world come to build their businesses, send their children to school, and provide for their families. With more than four million immigrants in New York, these newcomers make tremendous, vital economic, social, and cultural contributions to the Empire State.

And yet there is an enormous amount that our state - led by our elected officials - can do to support our newest New Yorkers move up the economic ladder. That’s why on Thursday, March 10, the New York Immigration Coalition is holding a statewide advocacy day, all the way from Buffalo to Brentwood, to commit to NYIC’s 2016 “Immigrant Blueprint for New York” – the framework for a comprehensive, long-term plan for the state to improve outcomes for immigrant communities and help be a national leader in immigration.

On Thursday, we'll meet with 38 legislators across New York - in Buffalo, Rochester, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island - to emphasize the needs of their communities.

Our “Blueprint” includes five major pillars for how to achieve immigrant prosperity:

Strengthen integration efforts for New Americans by providing adult education programming for immigrants that need them, and ensuring that limited-English-proficient speakers are able to access government services;

Address the persistent achievement gap for immigrant students and English Language Learners by ensuring tuition equity on the college level, creating multiple pathways to a high school diploma, reducing the required number of Regents exams, and investing in career and technical education;  

Provide access to healthcare for immigrants who are excluded from coverage by federal law, and improving access, coverage, and care for immigrants who are eligible to participate in New York’s health exchange;

Advance immigrant justice and uphold due process through ensuring access to affordable and reliable legal services, as well as limiting intrusive and unlawful collaboration between local and state law enforcement and immigration officials to improve trust between communities and law enforcement;

Protect workers’ rights for New York’s most vulnerable, including farmworkers and other low-wage workers exploited by unscrupulous employers, and by meeting basic needs such as including access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants who play critical roles in our economy yet lack tremendous barriers around transportation access.

These strategic steps are not pie-in-the-sky. They are concrete and achievable, and will do wonders for New York’s economic growth - catapulting New York even further as a leader in successful immigrant integration.  This March 10, our message is simple: By supporting immigrant communities, we are investing in New York - and we call on our elected officials to use this blueprint to make sure we secure New York’s present and future as the greatest state in the union.

Steven Choi is the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter @SteveChoiNYIC & @thenyic.

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Addressing NYC's School Overcrowding Crisis


Protesting school overcrowding in Queens

All parents in New York City deserve the peace of mind that their children will be able to attend a school where they can thrive and grow. Unfortunately, following years of neglect from the Bloomberg administration, our city's school system is plagued by school overcrowding and excessive class sizes, where hundreds of thousands of our children simply don't have adequate space to learn.

With education a top priority for the city, it's critical that our leaders take strong action to address the chronic underfunding of our city's school infrastructure. Key to addressing this issue is investing sufficient capital resources in the city budget, as well as improving the current school planning process, which is broken.

Recently, we've had some good news. When the city Department of Education (DOE) released its school capital plan, it included a commitment from Mayor de Blasio to invest nearly $900 million in additional resources to build more school seats. In the same plan, the DOE raised its needs assessment to 83,000 additional seats, given enrollment projections and existing overcrowding. This is closer to the 100,000-seat figure that Class Size Matters estimated in its recent report, "Space Crunch." Together, these two adjustments are a welcome acknowledgement of the crisis in school overcrowding, and we applaud them.

But more should be done. The number of new seats in the capital plan is 49,000—only about 59 percent of the DOE's own admitted need—and New York City's population is growing faster than any other large city in the nation. The mayor is now urging the City Council to adopt rezoning plans to accelerate the construction of thousands of new affordable and market-rate housing units, which will increase pressure on our school system. At this critical moment, the city has a real opportunity to address housing and education together.

Right now, more than half a million students are crammed into over-utilized schools, according to DOE data. In many cases, this means excessive class sizes of 30 or more, a loss of art, music, or science rooms, and a lack of dedicated spaces for students to receive counseling or mandated special education services – no less the wraparound services inherent in the community school model.

According to the analysis in a recent report by Make the Road New York—"Where's My Seat?"—immigrant communities have especially egregious overcrowding problems and even greater unmet needs in the DOE capital plan. In many of the schools in these neighborhoods, children are forced to eat their lunch as early as 10 a.m. or are bused to schools far away from their homes. Many do not have adequate opportunity for physical education because there is not enough space in their gyms.

We need to build, lease, and expand more schools. At least the 83,000 seats that the DOE projects are necessary. In addition, the process of school planning and siting must be made more efficient. There are many communities, like Sunset Park, which have suffered from extreme overcrowding for a decade or more, even though funding to build more schools in the neighborhood has existed in the capital plan, because the School Construction Agency has not been able to site a single one.

According to the DOE, only 15 percent of the school seats needed by 2019 have sites identified and are in the process of being designed. In seven districts, that percentage is zero. The city will fall even further behind in creating seats if the mayor's rezoning proposals are adopted, unless much more is done to build and site schools. A recent Environmental Impact Statement for the East New York rezoning proposal found it would exacerbate school overcrowding, and, along with other changes, drive high school overcrowding in the borough to 109 percent of capacity. Yet the DOE capital plan does not include a single Brooklyn high school to be built.

That is why we are urging the City Council, along with the mayor, to create a commission or task force of experts and stakeholder groups, to propose reforms to the school planning process, so that schools must be built along with housing, instead of decades afterwards. Among the issues to be considered would be reforms to the zoning process, including whether the threshold to consider the need for a new school should be lowered – especially when the schools are already overcrowded; whether the formula used by City Planning to estimate the impact of new housing on schools needs to be updated; whether the city should require impact fees from developers and/or use eminent domain more frequently; and how the trends in lost seats, utilization rates, and enrollment could be made more transparent and more accurate through regular reporting by the DOE.

As Mayor de Blasio repeated in his recent State of the City speech, the goal across our city must be to ensure that neighborhoods thrive. There cannot be successful neighborhoods unless there are schools with enough space for the children in every community across the city to learn and prosper. It's time to invest all the necessary resources and improve the school planning process to ensure the bright future that all of our children deserve.

Leonie Haimson is the Executive Director of Class Size Matters. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: @leoniehaimson @javierhvaldes.